Monday, November 11, 2013

Better A Millstone

New American Standard Bible
"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble."

The weekend before last, on our way home from the kids visitation with their dad, Noah and Karah talked excitedly about daddy watching the "black spiderman" with them. I called my father who I let listen to Noah and Karah's retelling of the scenes they watched, as well as Karah reminding Noah they also watched the one with the "octopus man". My father and I listened angrily to the horror of the images my poor babies had been subjected to at only 4 & 3 years old. Their poor little minds, what would they dream of? Who was this man I'd known for so long that let our children watch a movie with such hatred and demonic imagery?

I'm reminded of the opening scripture where we're warned that death would be a better path than to mislead one of God's most precious and innocent creations. Not just death, but death by being plunged into the sea and having no ability to swim up for air but to plummet and ultimately drown.

Am I saying all parents who let their children watch these movies are horrible people? No. First of all it is not my position to judge, not even now. I am merely protecting the delicate minds of my children. But no one could argue that the images don't and aren't MEANT to insight fear. Would any parent joyfully and willingly subject their child to these images if they knew how they would affect them? By that I mean, 2 weeks... WEEKS of my babes having nightmares, regressing in their potty training, becoming violent in play with other children, having separation anxiety, etc. All things indicative of a child-like trauma. Being all of a sudden fearful and irreverent.  Fear isn't a born trait any more than racism. It's learned, it's taught. It's something a parent uses to their good such a hot stove, or stangers. It is not something we subject our children to when their impressionable sponge like minds are looking to us for examples, comfort, stability. 

He and I have long disagreed on many things. He thinks my educated and well researched as well as proven belief that children need a routine (wakeup time, breakfast, snack, dinner time, nap time, bed time, etc) is solely a means for me to control, and manipulate. He ignores basic rhythmic changes in their behavior as normal and insisted once that I spank Karah for being moody while also sick at bedtime which, excuse me in my opinion, seems more natural than defiant.  How would you like it if all you wanted was sleep and someone insisted you do one more thing for work? He denies my belief in giving the children half juice/half water but had no issue with giving Karah (1 yo at the time) Mio Energy in her sippy cup because "we were out of juice". Nevermind that I had just run out for juice and milk to a store less then 2 miles away and would return in minutes. Nevermind the possible negative consequences of giving a toddler amples doses of caffeine.

I will include some of the most popular images from a few of the movies he has watched with the kids and let you be the jury. I don't need to have anyone on my team, I don't need family and friends telling me how awful he is. I know. I'm convicted enough in my faith, by my knowledge,  my own sins and mistakes, and by my immeasurable love for my children to know what he is doing is wrong. I know I will make mistakes. But I spent enough time married to him to know he's either doing it with complete disregard to be the "cool parent" or to spite me and my concerns. Maybe both. Who knows. I do know that I will do whatever necessary to protect those I love most especially my children. I wish he could see the huge mistake he is making. But I am not the boss of him. I am not the judge or jury. It is up to him and God. I hope one day he will forgive my complaining and insisting. I hope one day he and the babies will all see I do all is  out of love and a desperate need as well as responsibility to protect, educate and provide for my children. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Being Broke vs Broken

I remember my first year of marriage being the poor man’s equivalent of hitting the lottery, money wise. We had minimal bills and the income of two full time professional positions. We ate how and where we wanted, had fancy things like cable TV and custom made pool cues. Cut to two years later we were almost literally begging the government to give us enough money to eat and I learned how to work miracles with very few ingredients. At one point, I mixed hot chocolate powder (we’d gotten as a gift) with water and froze it and that was my ice cream. I was very happy to have it too, I felt like a genius. I would cry at times, alone of course, when people would have us over for meals because it meant eating when we might not have. 24 of 36 months we struggled through unemployment, most were consecutive, while trying to manage bills on top of having two children virtually back to back during this time. Despite two unplanned c-sections, gall stones, and surgeries related to the gall stones, I thought I was taking it all fairly well. I won’t say I didn’t break down on an all most regular basis – but I kept going. I got my tears out, then wiped my cheeks and did what I had to do to best make my home a home no matter how little we had.

When my world exploded July 2012, the downhill plummet hit hard and fast. He emptied the bank account and refused to pay any of the bills resulting in the children and I getting evicted, having to rush home to SC and live with family. His refusal to pay the car payment, despite it being in both our names and it being my sole means of transportation for myself and the children, cause it to be repossessed. He paid pennies where child support was concerned, forcing me to have no choice but to stay put and for almost a year share one small room with both toddlers. Still, I felt blessed for all I had. Again, I broke down – almost regularly from the hurt of what I lost and had taken from me, but I was so grateful for the blessings I still received. I had my babies, we had a roof over our head and food in our bellies. I had loving family and friends who made sure we never went without our basic needs.

May of 2013 I got a great job, paying a very fair wage considering the income I had prior and I was soon after finally able to get myself and my babies into a home. Money? Tight to say the least. Not terrible, but tight. Am I happy? As a pig in mud! I see my glowing angels faces each day and can breathe easy in a home where I’m free from his tyranny, control, manipulation and abusive nature. I don’t look over my shoulder any more. I’m beginning to find out who I am, not the ‘me’lost in years of a toxic marriage, but a new me.

In a recent text conversation (because he can’t be civil enough to talk in person or over the phone) I asked him to begin paying the child support on time instead of toying within days of the 5 day provision simply because he could. He, as expected, replied back with aggression and not at all any consideration for the needs of his children or the woman he once vowed to love honor and cherish.

So what hurts about this? What is “being broke”? It’s having $32 in the bank and refusing to spend it on yourself incase your children need something. Knowing you need laundry detergent but allowing the laundry to build up incase my children have a more important need… What’s the saddest part? While I’m asking a father to be prompt in his financial provision towards his childrens needs he responds with aggression and disrespect… While I thank God for recently received hand-me-down toys and clothes for my children. And I am grateful for the paper towels I double layered and folded then placed in my underwear because I refused to spend money on pads for myself incase the children needed that money. It's using the same razor for 3 months, brushing my teeth with water and rinsing with mouth wash, and filling the shampoo bottle with water to use up the last little bit, it's these things and so many more but the difference between being broke, and being broken is the difference between he and I.

The Checklist

I met him when I was 9 or 10. Dad had just remarried and shortly after I moved in with him and began going to church with them. I loved my church. I felt I belonged there. ‘He’ attended the church and I instantly developed a crush. I would swoon and daydream about him for years until about 21 when we began dating seriously. He was fantastic, doted on me – always wanting to spend time with me. So funny, we would laugh till we cried, over anything and everything. We went dancing every week, had drinks and partied throughout the blooming beginnings of our relationship. We shared a love for the bar scene. Darts, music, friends, shooting pool, greasy junk food, the whole bit. It was our “niche”. We went fishing and swimming, the summer romance took off like a rocket and I couldn’t have been happier.

Being a child of divorced parents, it was paramount to me that once I married I did whatever I could to make it last. To first and foremost be SURE I was marrying the right person, I developed “the checklist”. Something I wouldn’t actually knew existed until months into my separation years later. Growing up I never wanted to be a princess or doctor; I wanted to be a wife and mother. Take everything I learned from my mother and father, and through my faith as well, funnel it all into being the best I could be. I envisioned play dates with other mommies, girls nights out while the husband built forts and read to the children, date nights with him where we’d gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes – grateful to be out but missing the beautiful life we had at home. I wanted nothing more than to know the love and experiences of what it meant to be a wife and mother.

Slowly, our relationship grew routine. Less love, more acceptance. Still best friends though, never a doubt that as friends we were irreplaceable to each other. After 5 short months he proposed. Of course I said yes! I had “loved” him since I was 10. And, of course – the checklist. Was he moral & Christian? Check. Wants kids, and has same visions and goals for parenthood and their growth in life? Check. It went on and on and I checked it all off. Where there were red flags (I see now, though I didn’t then) I’d merely waved a wand and said cheekily “opposites attract” or thought our differences would somehow improve the relationship. Once I was sure he met the requirements I based all my plans and decisions on, it was all auto-pilot. I remember planning the wedding as if it were a job, or business transaction. Person after person told me I’d cry on my wedding day, but I laughed and assured them I would not. And I didn’t, it was just a grand event. A following through of what I knew was supposed to happen chronologically in my relationship with him. Everything was good according to the checklist, so it was perfect right?  Instead I shared smiles, giggly winks and silly faces with the wedding party and people seated. I thought about the future and how great it was going to be. I stared at him lovingly, but mostly my insecurities reminded me how grateful I was that someone would accept me. I was happy to see a handsome man standing before me ready to take on life’s biggest challenge. I focused on things like whether my hair was in place, did my makeup look okay, and whether my arms looked fat. No need to put too much weight into the actual ceremony, are you kidding? I’d played this over in my head millions of times; I agonized over the things on my checklist till I was sure I was doing the right thing. So this act we were performing in front of family and friends, I had already prayed over and performed in my head. By agreeing to marry him I had made my vows, and by saying ‘I Do’ I had sealed my commitment.

Now, in the process of divorce and separated for over a year I have had ample time to look back and ponder it all. Where I went right, where I went wrong, etc. I figured it out quickly; this checklist. I’d never known that it existed – simply that I’d always had the ideals I knew I had to follow and fulfill in order for life to go perfectly. How could I go wrong if I followed these rules and goals I had set in place after excruciating thought, prayer and planning?? The epiphany that in my mind I had created something as useless as a checklist by which I judged all the movements and decisions I made and still failed was a blow to the gut. One more reason to break down, and sob for days at a time. What else was on a checklist, where else might I be failing? To be going through something I grew up KNOWING would never happen and then be slapped with the realization that everything else might be falling or about to fall apart as well was more than I could stand, so I kneeled. I slept, I sat. I did anything but stand. Gradually I am regaining my strength to stand firm in myself and who I am but this journey was a hard one and now it seems another is just beginning… only this time, I won’t be using a checklist.